BIG BLUE FANS FOR
2010-11 Season Analytical Writings
The 2010-11 UK Wildcats will forever be known as the UK team that could not live up to its billings on the SEC road. For all the successes, and disappointments of November and December that generated the excitement and anticipation about what can be, the Cats' performance in late January and early February during its critical 7 game swing that took the Cats to 5 different SEC road venues was nothing short of dismal. To describe that performance as simply disappointing would be a grand understatement. 3-4 over the 7 games with road losses at Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Vandy. Even the three wins, at South Carolina and home games against Georgia and Tennessee were lackadaisical in 2 of the 3 wins.
As a consequence, the Cats prepare to finish the season with 4 home games and 2 more road dates with a 17-7; 5-5 record. While it remains possible that the Cats could still win the SEC East, and even the entire SEC this season, the practicality of that occurring is so remote that the Cats are left to play for pride and for the precious first round bye that a #2 SEC East finish will provide. They are in a race to the finish with Vanderbilt for that honor, and must win all remaining games to achieve even that result IF Vandy, Florida, and Alabama take care of business in their remaining games. One more loss, and this team will be appearing on Thursday in the SEC Tournament's first round action again.
The final 6 games is friendly in terms of 4 home games and only 2 road games, but the final 6 games are anything but easy on any other scale of measurement. These games include home games against a wounded, and dangerous Mississippi State team, South Carolina, Florida, and Mississippi State, with a trip to Arkansas sandwiched between those Rupp appearances, and a trip to Tennessee to end the regular season. By all accounts, these next 2 games at Rupp should provide this team a week of breathing room before the final push, but the way this team has been playing since New Year's day, and Miller's injury converts even these two games into a potential adventure.
For the record, despite the W-L record, this team has lost 5 SEC games by a total of 17 points, and 6 of its 7 season losses by a total of 21 points. Because of the combination of this team's inability to win the close games on the road against the likes of #11 North Carolina [2 points], #58 Georgia [7 points], #35 Alabama [2 points], #74 Mississippi [2 points], #29 Florida [2 points], and #27 Mississippi State [4 points], and this team's ability to win big against Auburn, LSU, Winthrop, Coppin State, and Mississippi Valley State, the bottom line team efficiency numbers have remained strong. Actually, the team efficiency numbers have remained strong enough overall, throughout this season, to maintain UK's position in Pomeroy's top 10. Even this morning, as this team prepares itself for this final push on the 2011 season, it holds onto a #9 ranking based on efficiency, and remains as only 1 of 7 teams nationwide with offensive and defensive efficiencies in the top 20.
So, this team has become a team of contradictions. What is this team's true character? Are these Cats the team that can't close out and win a close game on the road [a fatal flaw in most teams once post season begins]? Are these Cats the team that plays with such terrific efficiency that few teams can boast better overall performance, at least on paper [a characteristic that is meaningless unless the team can translate the paper predictions to on the court performance]? All season long, I have argued for the latter while most astute UK fans have countered that the team is more aligned with the former. I concede that the majority view [the team that can't close] has become a more realistic picture of this year's team, but I am hanging onto hope that this team can find that magic that propelled it in November and December. Therefore, my analysis of tonight's Mississippi State game will be unabashed optimism.
Mississippi State has played twenty-four games posting a record of 13-11; 5-5. The Bulldogs were unimpressive early this season, posting an 8-6 non-conference record. However, as most observers were quick to point out in November and December as the Bulldogs struggled against the likes of #185 Florida Atlantic and #109 ETSU and fell to each at home, just wait until MSU gets its full roster available, and then they will surely be the team to beat in the SEC West again this year. However, Bost and Sidney appeared, and played, but Mississippi State has not risen to a level of play with them to challenge Alabama or Mississippi for the SEC West.
MSU's most impressive non-conference win was by by 6 points in Starkville over #145 Detroit, but even that is shadowed by the loss to #185 Florida Atlantic noted previously. In SEC play, MSU does have one accomplishment to its credit that UK cannot claim, 2 road wins [over Mississippi and hapless LSU] in 5 road games. However, the Bulldogs have lost twice [to Alabama and to Vanderbilt] in 5 home games. MSU comes into Rupp Arena tonight off a very embarrassing road loss, by 3 at Auburn.
MISSISSIPPI STATE has played these games at an average pace of about 68 possessions, averaging 68.1 ppg and allowing 69.1 ppg. This translates to an offensive efficiency of 0.996 points per possession and a defensive efficiency of 1.004 ppp. MISSISSIPPI STATE's turnover rate has been 20.0% while they have forced turnovers at a 16.7% rate. On the Boards, MISSISSIPPI STATE's offensive and defensive rebounding rates have been 28.3% and 67.4% respectively.
As a basis of comparison, UK's performance against its first twenty four opponents produced 69 possessions, and a score of 76.9 to 63.4 ppg for efficiencies of 1.122 ppp and 0.924 ppp on the offensive and defensive ends. UK's turnover rate is 16.7% but UK only forced turnovers at a 18.6% rate. On the boards, the Cats posted rates of 35.5% and 70.2% at the offensive and defensive ends.
Kentucky's current Pomeroy SOS value is 0.7221 while Mississippi State's is 0.5243
The NGE analysis indicates a game played at a pace of about 69 possessions for the Cats and 68 possessions for the Bulldogs, with the Cats winning for the eighteenth time in twenty-five starts this season by 26 points, 82-56. The analysis projects an offensive efficiency of 1.188 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.824 ppp.
For the first 15 games, the same starting lineup posted a 12-3 record, but the loss to Georgia was enough for Coach Calipari to make a change, sitting Jones and moving Lamb into a starting role. Since he made that change, his Cats went 2-1, beating very weak Auburn and LSU at Rupp but losing again on the SEC road, this time at Alabama.
Coach Calipari returned to his original starting lineup for the South Carolina game, and that lineup now has a record of 15-6. Tonight, Miller will probably not start due to a groin injury he sustained during Saturday's game at Vanderbilt. Against MISSISSIPPI STATE, Coach Calipari starts Knight, Jones, Lamb, Liggins, and Harrellson. How Coach Calipari uses his bench, and whether Miller will make an appearance tonight remains to be seen.
MSU took the opening tip, and went inside to Sidney for a quick basket, and after a Kentucky miss, Bost hit a 3 pointer to race out to a 5-0 lead within the first 40 seconds, prompting a quick UK timeout. Out of the timeout, the Cats get a bucket, but another 3 pointer and a basket by MSU extends their early lead to 10-4 before the Cats score the last 5 points of the segment to close the gap to only 1 point, 10-9 at the under 16 TV timeout. Kentucky will have possession when play resumes off MSU's second turnover of the game.
Out of the timeout, Liggins commits an offensive foul and then on MSU's next possession picks up his second foul, sending Bost to the line and Liggins to the bench. Miller makes his first appearance with 14:52 to play. Bost made 1 of 2, and after a UK miss, MSU hit its 3 rd 3 pointer of the game. Vargas entered the game with 13:53 to play. While the Cats had a chance to tie the score at the beginning of the second segment, that opportunity did not last long, and MSU reestablished their 5 point lead, 18-13 at the under 12 TV timeout, and MSU will be shooting 3 free throws when play resumes.
In first 8 minutes, MSU has hit 7-9 shots including 3-5 from long range while the Cats are only 6-13, and 1-7 from long range. The shooting disparity is the early difference in this game. UK is being out rebounded 6-3 while the Cats have an early advantage with turnovers, 1-3. They make all three free throws to move in front by 8 points, 21-13. After another UK miss, MSU gets a three point play from Sidney for an 11 point lead, 24-13. However, the Cats score the next 7 points to trim the lead back to 4 points, 24-20, and the teams trade baskets over the balance of the extended 3 rd segment to a 3 point game, 31-28, at the under 8 TV with 5:05 to play in the first half.
In the first 15 minutes, the Cats have made 11-23, but only 3-11 from long range while MSU has hit 11-17, and 4-8 from long range. That additional 3 point shot marks the difference in this game. In the abbreviated 4 th segment, the Cats scored a basket to trim the lead to a single point, 31-30, at the under 4 TV timeout, with 3:29 to play in the half, and the Cats in possession. The first half has been played at a pace of about 65 possessions. The Cats have been efficient on their offensive end, but the Cats' defense has been lacking, as it was on Saturday, allowing 31 points on just 27 possessions.
On the first possession, Vargas missed a dunk attempt, and then fouls MSU at the other end which sends the lead back to 3. On the next trip, UK missed two shots from close range, and fouled at the other end to send the lead back to 5 points, 35-30. After a 3 pointer by Knight trims the lead back to 2 points, and Kentucky stopped MSU, a Jones turnover resulted in another 3 pointer by MSU to send the lead back to 5 points with 1:15 to play. After a flurry of misses and other activity in the last minute, the Cats got the ball down 5, 40-35, with a few seconds remaining, and MSU had 2 fouls to give. They quickly gave the first foul, but when they attempted to give the second foul near midcourt, Knight moved into a shooting motion, and was awarded 3 free throws, and then MSU was given a technical foul. Knight made 4 of the 5 free throws to trim the lead back to 1 point, 40-39 at the half.
UK scored its 39 points with 34 possessions for the half, and MISSISSIPPI STATE scored its 40 points on 34 possessions. Mississippi State won the rebounding battle, 15-13, Kentucky won the battle of the offensive rebounds 3-1 and Kentucky won a 1 point advantage with the second chance points, 3-2. MISSISSIPPI STATE had an offensive efficiency of 1.118 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 2.000 ppp on its 1 second chance. Kentucky had an efficiency of 1.057 ppp on its 34 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 3 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 17.6% of its misses as offensive rebounds while MISSISSIPPI STATE was able to convert 9.1% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit 7 of its 9 free throws in the first half [77.8%]. MISSISSIPPI STATE hit 11-12 [91.7%] for the half. Field goal shooting for UK was 14-30 overall [46.7%] and 4-13 from long range [30.8%]. For MISSISSIPPI STATE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 7-12 [58.3%] and from long range, MISSISSIPPI STATE hit 5-22 [45.5%].
The Cats committed 4 turnovers, one for every 8.5 possessions. The Cats forced 7 Bulldog turnovers, one for every 4.9 possessions.
Cats open the second half with the first 4 points, but MSU responded with another 3 pointer to regain the lead, 45-43. The teams traded baskets to a 1 point difference and MSU maintaining its lead, 50-49, at the under 16 TV timeout. MSU will have the ball when play resumes. Out of the timeout, the Cats got back to back steals that produced back to back run out baskets to give the Cats their biggest lead, 53-50, prompting a MSU timeout. The Cat run continued to 58-50 before a MSU pair of free throws stopped the Kentucky run. The Cats lead by 6, 58-52 at the under 12 TV timeout, and MSU has the ball.
With 10 minutes to play, and the Cats up 7 points, 62-55, Jones committed his 4 th foul and takes a seat, and on the in bounds play, Lamb fouled a three point shooter. MSU trimmed the lead to 2 points, 65-63, but the Cats answered with 4 straight points to lead by 6 points, 69-63 at the under 8 TV timeout with 7:07 to play in the game. Out of the timeout, MSU missed a shot, and turned the ball over for the 14 th time tonight, with a Lamb 3 pointer sandwiched between to give the Cats their biggest lead, 9 points, 72-63 and the ball with 6:23 to play in the game. After three 3 pointers increases the Kentucky lead to 12 points, MSU trims it back to 10 points, 80-70, and MSU calls a timeout to stop the clock with 4:06 to play. On UK's next possession, Knight drives to the rim, makes the basket and will shoot a free throw after the under 4 TV timeout to complete the 3 point play and with a chance to give the Cats their biggest lead of the game.
Knight converted, but MSU scored the next 7 points to trim the 13 point lead to only 6 points with 1:28 to play. Jones and Knight both miss the front end and MSU scored again to trim the lead to 4 points, 83-79 with about 40 seconds to play. When UK could not advance the ball up the court, Miller called a timeout with 34.4 seconds to play. The Cats do not finish well, but do get the win, 85-79.
UK scored its 85 points on 70 possessions for the game, and MISSISSIPPI STATE scored its 79 points on 70 possessions.
Mississippi State won the battle of the boards 29-26, and MSU won the offensive glass 6-5. Mississippi State won the second chance points battle 12-5. MISSISSIPPI STATE had an offensive efficiency of 0.957 ppp on its 70 first chance possessions and 2.000 ppp for its 6 second chance possessions. UK had 1.143 ppp on its 70 first chance possessions and 1.000 ppp on its 5 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 17.9% of its misses as offensive rebounds while MISSISSIPPI STATE was able to convert 22,2% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit very well from the free throw line until the final 4 minutes of the game, and ended the game hitting 12-18 [66.7%]. MISSISSIPPI STATE made 17-19 [89.5%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 32-57 overall [56.1%] and 9-22 from long range [40.9%]. For MISSISSIPPI STATE, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was 13-31[41.9%] and from long range, MISSISSIPPI STATE hit 12-22 [54.5%].
The Cats committed 10 turnovers, one for every 7.0 possessions. The Cats forced 15 MISSISSIPPI STATE turnovers, one for every 4.7 possessions.
Prior to the game, the NGE analysis predicted a 26 point UK win, 82-56 at a pace of 69 possessions for UK and 68 possessions for MISSISSIPPI STATE. The final score was 85 (82) to 79 (56) at a pace of 70 possessions for the Cats and 70 possessions for MISSISSIPPI STATE. The UK offensive efficiency for the game was 1.210 (B-) and the UK defensive efficiency was 1.129 ppp (E).
Next Game On Schedule: The Cats will remain in Rupp to take on South Carolina on Saturday, February 19.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks